Isdore Guvamombe Reflections
Back in the village in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve our home lay serene, shabby and dusty as ever in the late afternoon sun.
Under the late afternoon heat, hens clucked drowsily to themselves, intermittently disturbed by the horny big cock that mounted and descended as if it had taken some Viagra. After the mounting, each hen shook off the lethargy of the bout and continued clucking. The big cock left no hen untouched. Busy!
On the village open ground children squealed: girls played boxes, their dresses stuck in the hems of their panties shouting “harauru… harauru…, harauru!” and hoping from one box to another on one spindly leg. They quarrelled noisily among themselves. Boys played paper ball, raising clouds of dust. The sun continued to move towards its setting, imperceptibly.
Suddenly a car pulled up and Auntie K, who stayed in Mvurwi Town, had arrived. She rarely visited. Maybe once in three years! She was among a few women to stay in town in Rhodesia. She was not married and worked for some whites-only nursery school. Neither did she have children. She did not want to have any.
Auntie was dropped off. The car was a spectacle. It attracted everyone in the village. This villager saw a car at close range for the first time, let alone touch it. It was fascinating.
Auntie K was onion shaped and light in complexion but her face was ashen. We were later told she used Ambi Black Powder. She smelled good, too. Fragrance!
This villager compared his non-descript dirty and pungent shirt and shorts, bare legs and cracked feet to the auntie K’s pristine frocks and chocolate cream skin. The villager gazed at her with awe and fascination. She didn’t seem human at all. She was ghostly.
Mother quickly instructed us the chase after the cock. That signalled the end of its procreation antics. Alarmed, the chicken tut-tutted and fluttered. Soon the big cock met its fate.
This villager was then sent some 4km away to alert another auntie, Auntie Rati that her younger sister had come. There were no cell phones. The feet were always handy.
Along the way, chicken, stray dogs and people always wandered.
Auntie Rati’s house was always the same. They were voices inside. Her vicious dogs set after me. I rocked dizzily on my feet. Before anyone came to the rescue, this villager’s rescue, he ran helter-skelter along the dusty road, the dogs closing in. Suddenly the dogs caught up with this villager and tore into his clothes and flesh, devil heavens!
They only stopped at Auntie Rati’s intervention. Amid the sobbing, this villager caught the kook of horror and disbelief on auntie face, “Jehova!” she exclaimed noticing the wounds all over, tattered clothes and excruciating pain.
A spasm hit this villager and he coughed and spat blood on the ground. This villager tucked a grubby fist on his mouth to try and stifle the sound of the sobbing. He still delivered the message.
Auntie Rati’s eyes were full of exasperated affection. She cleaned the wounds with salty water.
Back in the village many relatives had gathered at the homestead to see auntie K. She was equally shocked by the wounds and offered, as pacification, that this villager visits her in town, one day. Goodies, she said, awaited the villager in town. It was an open invitation.
Many, many moons later after this villager had written his Grade Seven final examinations. He worked in someone’s garden to raise enough money to visit auntie in town. Mvurwi was just 50km from the village but visiting it those days was too far, to contemplate.
Cleared by both parents, this villager set off for Mvurwi, but not until the delay in being paid for the menial job forced him to leave in the afternoon.
A huge Mverechena bus rattled to a stop- all metal, tryes and a groping engine- and this villager having boarded in a huff, the monster took off, past Muzika, Ruyamuro, Kondo, Chikonyora and Mupinge, repeating its feat at every bus stop until it stopped in Mvurwi.
After alighting, this village boy looked for house number 472 in the township and the sun had just set. After a few directions I got to small gate. There was no electricity at the house and Auntie K cooked from outside. This villager posed outside the gate and watched the smoke arise from auntie K’s cooking place. She went in and out of the house, without responding to the knock.
This villager confidently entered the yard and about that time Auntie K came from the core-house, pot in one hand and cooking stick in another.
She tended the fire, her eyes flickering around blindly from the resultant smoke. She looked up and saw this little village boy standing studiously, unmoving. She was irritated and about to send the boy off, when she realised it was this villager.
“Ooooh, it that you? Why are you here my brother’s son?.”
“To see you auntie!” exclaimed this village boy, joyously.
“Well that is very nice of you. But why did you not come in the morning? I am sure it is late now and I need to take you back to terminus so that you don’t miss the last bus to Guruve. But thanks for coming to see me,” she heartlessly declared.
Without being allowed to enter the house and without even a glass of water, she walked the village boy to the terminus.
“I could not allow you into the house because no one will clean your footsteps for me. I have neither a child nor a maid,” she continued.
Soon the bus arrived and this villager boarded, boiling inside and feeling betrayed, rejected and dejected.
The journey from Mvurwi seemed a thousand miles until the bus ground to a rattling halt at Muzika School and there the village boy alighted, tail between his legs.
This villager took a footpath through Muzika Village, the smell of cooking food wafting across and miffed voices talking in the homesteads. Dogs barked intermittently but this villager moved on. Soon the moon rose from Siyalima to the east, tinging the earth golden.
Finally the villager got home. Everyone was surprised except his father, Auntie’s blood brother. After narrating the story amid sobs, this villager’s father remarked: “Yes, that is my sister for you. I go to Mvurwi for my salary at the bank every month end but I don’t go to see her. She once did that to me. She has done it to many other people. She doesn’t like people at her home.”
About 15 years later, ancestors’ exhaustless generosity thrust this villager into journalism. Soon this villager was on radio and all over newspapers and had buried Auntie K into the abyss of history and condemned her with the contempt she deserved. During that period, this villager had travelled past Mvurwi a thousand times never imagining visiting Auntie K.
One wintry morning this villager received a phone call and, guess what?… it was Auntie K on the other end of the line? I had never talked to her since that first visit to town and never expected a call from her. There was excitement in her voice but somehow there was an after taste.
“I have read your stories in newspapers and I keep a lot of cuttings. Many people tell me you drive past Mvurwi every weekend going to Guruve and back. Are you sure you can pass through this place so many times without seeing me…Are you sure? But why, my brother’s son, why? I wish you knew how proud I am of you. I tell everyone here that you are my brother’s son and they think it’s a joke. They don’t believe me,” she seemed to be sobbing.
After careful consideration, this villager drove off to Mvurwi and the small town had not changed much. With much ease, the place was found. There she was, looking sickly and fragile but still managing to pull a smile. She took this villager inside the house without hesitation. On the doorstep, the villager tried to rub clean the underneath of the shoe on the mat but Auntie said, “never mind.”
There we sat, in a small core-house that had never been electrified. She could not afford although her neighbours had all electrified theirs. There she was a pale shadow of her past and a ghostly figure. But she still smelt good! She used nice perfume. Cutting of this villager’s stories were pasted on the walls, some of them discoloured by exposure. Soon she went out of the house and came back with many neighbours on tow.
She excitedly made introductions and requested that I show them by national Identity card to prove that it was really me, her bloody brother’s son. That was followed by a shopping escapade where she picked whatever she wanted for this villager to pay, amid a flurry of introductions.
Then back home, she started dishing out her secrets. She was out of job had become HIV positive and finding it hard to access treatment those years. I offered to pay for all her bills eternally and to buy her groceries every month.
She had no children and wanted me to be this villager to be administrator of her small estate in the event of her death and ensure that my sisters and her own sisters benefit from the house.
Since this villager was leaving for the United States of America for three weeks, most of the things would be cleared on return, we agreed. But the ARV’s were urgent so I gave her cash for it. When I returned three weeks later, Auntie K had died and had been buried at Nhamoyebonde Village. I wished I had done more to save her life.
copyright. Isdore Guvamombe